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Director-General, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba’s opening remarks on behalf of the Minister Barbara Creecy during the IUCN Regional Conservation Forum in Johannesburg

23 July 2019

Honourable Minister of State for Environment, Republic of Uganda, Dr Mary Goretti Kitutu;
Honourable Minister for Environment, Republic of Rwanda, Dr Vincent Biruta;
Acting Director General of IUCN, Dr Grethel Aguilar;
Directors-General and Principal Secretaries present;
Esteemed Delegates;

Ladies and Gentlemen

South Africa is honoured to have been chosen among other capable countries in the region to host this Regional Conservation forum. This gathering is coming at a time when South Africa is celebrating 25 years of our democratic dispensation premised on the constitutional rights of a safer and healthy environment for all, and environmental rights and justice for current and future generations. The theme for this conference resonates with our approach to conservation that acknowledges nature’s contribution to social and economic development for the people.

Participation in this forum signals our acknowledgement of the role that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an organization plays in informing policy discourse on matters such as conservation of ecosystems and species.

The global biodiversity assessment report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) sent shockwaves as it noted that as many as a million species could become extinct. The report highlighted the major drivers for biodiversity loss as change in land use, over exploitation of species, climate change, pollution and alien and invasive species. These drivers are having an unprecedented impact on biodiversity and ecosystems and are undermining the achievement of important Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) linked to poverty, food security, health, safe water and sustainable cities. I am confident that this forum will deliberate on some of the solutions and contributions that together as a collective of partners, despite our diversity, can make to respond to these challenges.

Africa’s extraordinary richness in biodiversity and ecosystem services, and wealth of indigenous and local knowledge, comprises a strategic asset for sustainable development in the region. This notion was reaffirmed recently at inaugural African Wildlife Summit in Victoria Falls which was hosted by the African Union in collaboration with UNEP.

Securing a future for nature in Africa is therefore an integral part of Agenda 2063. This will require strengthened partnerships between governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society in line with the SDG principle of leaving no one behind.

South Africa has embarked on the implementation of the Wildlife Economy Programme, supported by our National Biodiversity Economy Strategy. It is our wish that as we deliberate in the next three days, we come up with recommendations for similar programmes while ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of our flora and fauna.

Marine litter, including plastic litter, has become a matter of increasing global and national concern as a source of marine pollution. To this end, South Africa has prioritised efforts to deal with the marine litter and plastic litter challenge, through a Source to Sea programme involving multiple government departments, at national, provincial and local level, as well as the private sector and other stakeholders, working in priority catchment areas, providing job opportunities through the Working for the Coast programme.

Our commitment to the expansion of the protected area estate is evident through the declaration of 20 new Marine Protected Areas that increase spatial protection of South Africa’s ocean environment from the current 0.4% to 5.4% of our Exclusive Economic Zone. This protects marine and coastal habitats and ecosystems that we consider as the basis of South Africa’s marine based economic activity while sustaining fisheries for long-term food and job security, and most importantly contributing to the growth of marine ecotourism. This is in line with our commitment to the 5th IUCN World Parks Congress.

Similar progress has been made in terrestrial ecosystems which include the Transfrontier Conservation Areas. The establishment of Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA’s) as a means of jointly managing natural resources across political boundaries is one of the greatest conservation success stories within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Our regional integration is strengthened through these diverse areas of unique landscapes, variety of species and ecotourism product offerings. South Africa will continue to work with our partners to consolidate the work in Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) for the benefit of transboundary biodiversity conservation. We continue to explore other transboundary collaboration in the areas of World Heritage Sites and the programme on Biosphere Reserves. I am also pleased to announce that we have just added 3 new areas to our prestigious Ramsar List of Wetlands of global significance.  This comes on the back of South Africa addition of the 10th site on the UNESCO world heritage list.

We also celebrated ten years of People and Parks, a programme that originated from the 5th World Parks Congress held in Durban in 2003. As government, we have adopted the slogan “Moving South Africa forward” in which we have prioritized the integration of communities into the mainstream of conservation and protected areas management.

Sustainable land management, protection of forests and securing strategic water sources will continue to remain as part of the core focus areas of the department. It is through our institutionalized rehabilitation programmes that we continue to invest in the restoration of degraded lands and improvement in the functionality of ecosystems. Our approach to these conservation objectives incorporates the core tenants of job creation especially for the youth and women in the rural areas of our country.

Our efforts to mainstream biodiversity is consistent with the CBD’s approach to mainstreaming biodiversity into production sectors that are either directly affected or those that negatively impact biodiversity. These sectors include amongst others tourism, fisheries, forestry and agriculture, as well as transport, mining, infrastructure, manufacturing and health.  To this end we have established and maintained institutionalized governance systems and approaches to enhance cooperation and coordination beneficial to conservation of natural resources. We are of the view that by employing mainstreaming tools such as Natural Capital Accounting and the Business and Biodiversity initiative we will be able to maintain a better balance sheet for nature and monitor effectiveness of policies implemented.

It is very clear that responding to the better management of biodiversity cannot be left to governments alone. Partnerships with civil society, academia and business are critical. In this regard, other Programmes that ensure that communities have access and do benefit from the resources include government’s Working For Programmes, for example, Working for Water; Working for the Coast; Working for Land; Working on Fire and Working for Wetlands. Most importantly, the People and Parks Programme which specifically focuses on people living adjacent to the protected areas, including those who were displaced, has also made significant progress to redress South Africa’s circumstances.  We are proud to share with you some specific examples that highlight the progress made:

  • Every two years we host a National People and Parks Conference which provides communities living alongside our protected areas a platform for engaging government and informing policy.
  • In 2010 we launched the National Co-management Framework. A number of other co-management deals have been facilitated between communities and owners of private game reserves and these will enable transfer of skills, job creation and access to direct benefits.
  • Access and Benefit Sharing Framework and guidelines ensure that communities have access to natural resources, for example, for cultural, medicinal, commercial uses and other consumptive and non-consumptive uses which is part of the management of all protected areas.
  • Our communities have played a crucial role on the Expansion of the Conservation Estate in South Africa, with a number of conservation areas now established in communal land and managed by communities.

All these initiatives contribute to national priorities such as, job creation, poverty alleviation as well as enterprise and skills development for the betterment of our communities.

Illegal wildlife trade and trafficking remain key concerns that undermine conservation efforts of many countries in our region. Our country has invested significant resources in the fight against this scourge in an integrated approach that intertwines elements enforcement, community empowerment, responsive legislation, biological management and demand management. We recognize the role of IUCN and other multilateral platforms in species conservation, especially when our countries are facing the scourge of poaching and illegal wildlife trade.  We are making use of the tools and scientific input from the various IUCN scientific platforms in advancing evidence based decision making. We have just concluded the hosting of the IUCN species survival commission (SSC) Africa elephant specialist group network. Our membership in all the multilateral environmental agreements provide a platform for intergovernmental engagement in support of regional cohesion in conservation matters.

As you discuss the governance of IUCN, it is important to come up with ways to improve the decision making mechanisms informing the resolutions taken at the World Conservation Congresses. South Africa has raised some concerns regarding the balance of influence between state members and non-state members. It must be noted that the burden of implementation of obligations rests heavily with governments and policy makers.

The impacts of Climate Change are real and most felt by the poor and vulnerable groups in society. Our region is already facing devastating effects of climate change ranging from heat waves and runaway field fires, the recent floods and drought conditions exacerbated by back to back El Nino events. South Africa’s vision 2030 is for an effective climate change response and just transition to a climate-resilient and lower-carbon economy and society. We recognize that a just transition to a climate resilient economy and society requires innovative solutions, some of which should be nature based. To this end, our response is reflected in the national climate change response policy which is a framework for our adaptation and mitigation efforts.

I sincerely hope that the discussions of this Forum will assist the Region to have substantive input into the IUCN Programme for 2021 to 2024. Mostly importantly providing direction to the post 2020 CBD Programme.

Over the past 20 years, global targets for Biodiversity have not been fully achieved. Accelerated actions under CBD require levels of public attention comparable to those of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change if transformational change is to be achieved.

In this regard, the discussions on a post 2020 global biodiversity agreement need to put equal emphasis on setting ambitious targets as well as on addressing the means of implementation. Mega diverse countries like South Africa carry an enormous burden to conserve and sustainably utilize globally significant biodiversity. Effective means of implementation of global and national targets, including resource mobilization, capacity-building, knowledge management, communication and stakeholder engagement are therefore required as an integral part of the Post 2020 global biodiversity agreement.

South Africa as incoming chair of AMCEN stands ready to advance the priorities adopted by the African Ministers of Environment on 13 November in Sharm el Sheik and ensure a pragmatic post 2020 global biodiversity agreement that advances Africa’s sustainable development imperatives.

In conclusion, it would be fitting for me to end my remarks this Mandela month with the following quotes from our First Democratic President and Former IUCN Patron Dr Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela.

"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."

"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Mandela

Thank You


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